With the new generation coming through we're at an interesting position in the division with two veterans set to face off this coming Sunday with WBA champion Lucas Martin Matthysse (39-4-0-1, 36) defending his title against Filipino boxing idol Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38) in Kuala Lumpur. Both have looked like they are a long way removed from their best, with their last outings showing them to be shadows of their former selves. Matthysse was last seen in the ring defeating Teerachai Kratingdaenggym for the title back in January, but had struggled before pulling out an 8th round KO of the Thai. Pacquiao on the other hand hasn't fought since his controversial loss to Jeff Horn in July 2017. Added to their poor recent performances are their ages, with Pacquiao 39 years old, 40 in December, and Matthysse being 35, 36 in September. Neither man is a youngster, both have looked poor, and both will know that anything but a win here will likely end their career's.
Of the two men it's certainly Pacquiao who has had the more distinguished career. The Filipino Southpaw has been one of the few fighters to transcend the sport and is seen as not only a boxing icon but a key Filipino figure and a key sporting figure. He has turned his boxing success into a political career in his homeland and is well known for his charitable work outside of the ring. Inside the ring he was, arguably, the most destructive man in the sport for over a decade starting in 1998, when he stopped Chatchai Sasakul for the WBC Flyweight title right through to 2009, when he stopped Miguel Cotto for the WBO Welterweight title.
At his very best Pacquiao was an aggressive, fast, combination punching Phenom with brutal power in his left hand, and explosive quickness. Sadly Pacquiao of the last few years has lost a lot of what made him special. His intensity and energy are gone, the fire seems to be going out, and at 39 there is real question marks regarding what he still has left in the tank. Even when he has dominated fighters, like Jessie Vargas, Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios, there hasn't quite been the same desire in his eyes as there was during his peak. Given his inactivity and age there is real questions as to whether he can even show glimpses of his old self.
Matthysse was, for a long time, one of the best active fighters to never win a proper world title. Between 2010 and 2014 he went from being an obscure Argentinian fighter in his homeland to being recognised as a leading Light Welterweight. He did that by travelling to the US and facing the likes of Zab Judah, Devon Alexander, Humberto Soto, Ajose Olusegun, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia. Whilst he would pick up some losses during that run, including very controversial ones to Judah and Alexander, he had proven he belong in the mix and claimed the WBC interim title along the way. He had also made fans, his exciting, power based style, made him an almost instant fan favourite and later wars with John Molina and Ruslan Provodnikov were both sensational action bouts.
Sadly for Matthysse a loss to Viktor Postol in 2017 caused Matthysse career to stall as he suffered a serious eye injury and would be out of the ring for over a year. Since then he has scored wins over Emmanuel Taylor and Teerachai, but looked a shadow of himself against the Thai, who made Matthysse look old, clumsy and slow.
This isn't so much of a super fight between two notable veterans with exciting styles. It's more of a retirement bout in our eyes, with the loser literally having no where to go. The winner will have a bargaining chip for another big fight down the line. But even then it's unlikely they'll manage to pick up another notable win, given how poor they looked last time out. We suspect Pacquiao's inactivity and age will be his downfall here, but given how poor Matthyse looked against Teerachai there is a good chance that Pacquiao will use what's left of his speed to pick up one more huge win for his legacy.